By extending Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you are able to give more definition to the idea of self-actualization. Using this principle, Richard Barrett developed The Seven Levels Model, a cultural transformational tool that links your values to the levels of consciousness. He believes that anything you need is anything that has value to you. Leadership traits have six different behaviors, and the top of which is integrity. Lee Benson conducted a study on ten employees and asked how they apply integrity in their work. This led him to focus on strategy and culture that leads to achieving extraordinary results.
If you’re interested in values and culture, we have two of the top experts. We have Richard Barrett and Lee Benson here. You may know a Richard from his work with cultural transformation tools at the Barrett Values Centre. He has done work in more than 50 countries, maybe 60 now. Lee Benson’s one of the most influential thinkers on helping organizations align their strategy and culture. In fact, Jack Welch saw what he was doing and said that Benson’s work was the best business management system he’s ever seen. We’re going to find out why.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Evolution Of Human Values with Richard Barrett
I am here with Richard Barrett who’s an author, speaker and internationally recognized thought leader on the evolution of human values in business and society. He’s the Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and Founder of the Academy for the Advancement of Human Values. He’s also a fellow of the World Business Academy and former values coordinator at the World Bank. He’s the creator of the internationally recognized Cultural Transformation Tools, which have been used to support more than 5,000 organizations in 60 different countries on their transformational journeys. It’s nice to have you here, Richard. Thank you for being here.
You’re very welcome.
I have studied personality assessments and about them, anything that discusses culture and values interests me. I’m very interested in your background. How did you get into this?
I have absolutely no qualifications for what I do, that’s number one. Number two, it’s my sole passion. I’ve been doing it for 25 years now and I’ve always been interested right from the get-go in spirituality, psychology, eastern mysticism. Even though I did a degree in civil engineering, it taught me 25 years to figure out that wasn’t for me and I needed to switch careers, and so that’s what I did.
Can you first explain the Cultural Transformational Tools? It’s got seven levels to it, correct?
The model is called the Seven Levels Model. It was basically an extension of expansion of Maslow’s work, extending it by giving more definition to the idea of self-actualization. They expanded it in terms of recognizing that each level of consciousness has particular needs, and anything you need is what you value. You can allocate values to levels of consciousness. If you tell me what your values are, I can tell you what levels of consciousness you’re operating from. In fact, our viewers can go online and do their own values assessment. In about a couple of minutes, you’ll get a free report linking your values to levels of consciousness. You’ll find it very profound and very interesting. Over the last three years, half a million people have done that.
That’s quite an achievement. What made you interested in expanding upon Maslow’s hierarchy?
I honestly can’t tell you. This is going to sound strange, but I live in soul consciousness and my God, the instructions from my soul. I didn’t know it was that in those days, but now I do. It was like this is what I’m supposed to do with my life. I got the inspiration that’s “in spirit Asian” to take a look at that. I had written a book called A Guide to Liberating Your Soul where I’d recognize that there are different stages of soul activation. I got that from the Vedic tradition and I thought to myself, “It’d be interesting to put Vedic science together with Maslow.”That’s how I came to create the Seven Levels Model, Maslow at the bottom giving all the definition for survival relationships with self-esteem and then the transformation, and then the Vedic tradition giving me deep insights into the upper levels of consciousness or stages of development. That’s the model.
You asked about the Cultural Transformation Tools. If you tell me your values, I can tell you what levels of consciousness you’re operated from. I developed a tool for measuring personal consciousness and national consciousness. The tool is very similar. We ask three questions: which of the following values or behaviors do you most resonate with who you are, which values represent how your organization nation community operates, and which values represent how you’d like it to operate? You pick from templates of about 90 words which have been customized for your particular context then we aggregate all of the answers by employees or by citizens. We’re able to get a very deep insight into what’s working and not working in a particular culture, organization, community, or nation. Based on that, I developed the company Barrett Values Center and for the past twenty years we’ve gone from strength to strength. Now we work in 90 different countries all over the world doing values assessments mostly for organizations who want to improve their performance. As they improve their performance, all the operating indicators increase including profits and employee engagement.
I’ve seen employee engagement pick pictures where they’ve copied the pyramid look from Maslow’s, how it’s foundational and the next step and the next step as that goes. I can see how this would be very helpful to engagement. Now you know what your values are, what do you do with that?
When you say you, are you talking about individual, organization, or nation?
Let’s start at the individual level.
The Seven Levels Model of Consciousness, that’s what I developed and I’ve use it for measuring for quite a number of years. Then about six or seven years ago, I realized that the model was more than just levels of consciousness. It was also stages of development. The survival stage is naught to two, the conforming stage which is relationships is three to seven, and then the differentiating stage is 8 to 24 roughly. Then from 25 up to late 30s is the individuating stage. Then comes the self-actualization stage in the 40s, the integrating stage in the 50s then the serving stage in the 60s.
What happens after that?
That’s the contributing stage, and you give more and more. You stop working for money and work for the good of humanity. About six or seven years ago, I realized I could shift the model from levels to stages, so we grow in stages and we operate in levels, depending on what age you are, I’m not going to ask you your age, but let’s assume.
I’ll tell you, I’m in my 50s.
In the 50s, that is the integrating stage. In this stage, what it’s all about is you want to make a difference, but the key here is if you can’t connect with people, you can’t make a difference. You have to be able to connect. 50s is all about connecting so that you can make a difference. Each stage of development, you have to master particular task, the extent to which you master that task or not, either holds you back or accelerates you forward to the next stage. If you’re at the integrating stage and certainly you lose your job, you lose your home, and you lose everything else, you will drop down to the survival level of consciousness. It doesn’t mean you go back to the survival stage of consciousness. You got dropped. At consciousness, we operate at levels and we grow in stages.
I was looking at how you try to quantify this. It’s challenging because I just wonder if people take this information and how do they utilize it? What if they don’t do what you tell them to do?
First of all, I’m not telling anybody to do anything. The customers who come to us from the business sector want to improve their performance or they want to improve the culture or they want to become a values driven organization. They take the results and they see the discrepancies between the personal values, the current culture, and the desired culture. What we’d like to see is the values showing up in the personal values, match the same levels as the current culture match the same levels as design, but we don’t often see that. What we normally see the personal values and desired values match roughly levels of consciousness, but the operating values are much lower levels of conscious except in the case of nonprofit sector where people go to work to make a difference. In that current culture, they have values up in the upper levels. In the desired culture, the value’s all in the lower levels because they realize that they’re handicapped by the fact that they don’t have much money and they don’t know how to get money. They’re actually not that good at relationships and they’re not very good at productivity. Then the third level of consciousness, we see this difference between private sector and not for profit sector where the private sector is quite good at the first three levels but not very good at the upper levels. The not for profit sector is the opposite way around.
Did I see that you not only do this at a corporate level but you also did it for an entire government, for a whole a country? Or did I misread that?
No. We mapped the values of 27 nations. In fact, I’m just back from Brazil where we did the second values assessment. We did one in 2010 and just did another one. I just got back from spending a week there, going over the results and helping them to formulate their ideas about how to resolve the issues that showed up in the values assessment. I flew straight from Sao Paulo to where the Canadians are doing their second values assessment. I did a presentation to the Slovakian people around the results of their values assessment. We’ve done 27 of these in many nations. In some nations like France and Sweden, we do one of these assessments every year. We’re able to track what is going on in the nation. It’s like a dashboard of what’s going on in the culture of the society in France and Sweden. It enables us to track what’s happening and what’s not happening.
We measure something called Cultural Entropy, the degree of dysfunction in the system. That is a very key indicator coming out of our assessment for organizations, for nations, and for communities. We watch closely where their cultural entropy is going down or up. A high level of cultural entropy means you’ve got a highly dysfunctional society. Something interesting happened in 2008 when we more than just started playing with this. We were developing it, not to the point we have now, but I did cultural values assessment for Iceland. Iceland is the most democratic country on the planet so I expected great results with a low level of Cultural Entropy. Cultural Entropy was at 52% which is ginormous. I was shocked. I looked at the results and I could see why. I went to Iceland and I said, “If you had this level of Cultural Entropy and you’re an organization, with this level of Cultural Entropy you’d be going bankrupt about now because so much energy would be going into dysfunctional procedures. Two weeks, Iceland went bankrupt.
Do you follow the United States?
Of course, yes. Actually, I’ve got dual citizenship. I’m a US and UK national.
How do we compare here in the United States?
We mapped the values of the USA for three years on the first three years of the Obama administration. We haven’t done it since. Even then, we had entropy levels up in the 50s and it was clear to me that there was some deep malaise inside the USA. You don’t have that level of Cultural Entropy unless you’ve got a lot of societal dysfunction. It was almost a pre-warning of what came along at the presidential elections last year. It was signaling that there are huge rifts in society, a lack of social cohesion. That’s what happens when you get high Cultural Entropy and a lack of social cohesion. Recently, I’ve developed a new indicator called the global consciousness indicator, and in fact I’m just writing that up now in the report. I was comparing the results for Canada and the USA. Canada’s a very different country to the USA. USA ranks about 110 in the world in terms of violence. Amongst all the developed nations, the USA is probably one of the worst in terms of what I call level two violence. It’s very different to Canada in that respect. On the other hand, USA ranks number one in the world in terms of education, access and quality of education and the entrepreneurial business environment.
What correlations have you drawn to that?
I find it absolutely fascinating with this new assessment I’d done. I took seventeen global indicators produced by other people, I allocated them to the Seven Levels Model. There are two or three indicators for every level. I normalize the data and I can tell you which is the best country to live in if you are very interested in the environment, it’s Slovenia. Hardly anybody’s ever heard of it. The best country to live in, in terms of social cohesion is New Zealand. I could tell you lots of interesting facts about the different countries. Interestingly, I noticed when I was working on this report that the top countries in the world are definitely the Scandinavians in terms of consciousness. However, the Anglo-Saxon nations, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, are actually better than the Scandinavians at social cohesion. Anyhow, there are many different facts. We’re going off/on tangents here because I’m excited about the work I’m doing and I need to listen to your questions.
These are great. This is very fascinating to me. I’m curious if you did any Middle East or Asian type of countries in Japan?
With the measurement that we do, we’ve mapped the values of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the Middle East. With the new global consciousness indicator thing that I’m working on, I’ve got data now for 170 different nations.
I’m curious if you’ve done Lebanon or anything in that region?
In terms of our national values assessment, we’ve done 27 of those. That’s all we’ve done, 27 different nations. In terms of the global consciousness indicator, which is more of a desk exercise, I’ve looked at 170 different nations. In terms of mapping values, it’s only 27 and includes Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. It doesn’t include any other countries in that region except Turkey. We did Turkey last year.
After you’ve seen the results, did it make you want to move anywhere? Like this would be the perfect place for me based on what I’ve found out here?
I’m thinking of writing a paragraph at the front of this report which says, “If you’re interested in this, go to this country.” I can do that. I’ve got all that data, but for me, what I like is to keep warm. Although I live in London in the winter, I actually live in Italy in the summer.
That’s a good explanation. I don’t blame you. What part of Italy?
Just down south of Florence in Tuscany, a little town called Greve in Chianti. We have a place in the countryside there. I’m usually there from April till end of September.
Do you see differences within the different regions of Italy or the US? Do you do an overall assessment or do you?
I don’t have that level of detail yet. I’ve been working on a global national level up to this point, but that will be for the future. If a particular country or somebody who’s particularly interested in doing an analysis by region, I can absolutely do that quite easily. It’s just I write so much. I’ve written a book every year now for seven years. I’ve written eleven books altogether, and I’ve got books lined up that I want to write for the next two or three years. It’s just a question of getting onto my priority list.
You’re a busy guy. Did you ever talk to Obama or anybody else about your results?
No. Interestingly, this year has seen a huge increase in recognition for my work. I’ve been doing this work professionally, or shall we say, getting paid for it for twenty years now. It’s just this year that I got a significant amount of global recognition for what I’ve been doing.
I don’t know. I’ve just been putting stuff out into the world and people began noticing. I did a blog earlier on Donald Trump and got 15,000 hits. More recently, based on that data I got from the 500,000 people who’ve done personal values assessment, I wrote a blog about the values of humanity and that’s got over 3,000 hits. It’s not just that. It’s been building over the time. Lots of interesting things are happening right now.
You’re going to probably assess the United States now that we have Trump in office, what changes do you think you’ll see based on that? Did you make any predictions?
The level of cultural entropy will be just as high as it was five years ago because nothing’s been resolved. Nothing’s changed. Even the people who voted for Trump are not seeing too many benefits. It’s a very interesting situation. You vote for a guy and these people voted for the guy who put more money in their pockets. He’s not guy who’s going to do that. He’s going to feed the rich because those are his people. However, he resonates with the people who probably missed out on higher education or never traveled the world. The level of Cultural Entropy in USA is getting worse and worse frankly, and if we measured again we’d see it had got worse.
That’d be interesting to see. Where do we fall? Who had the highest level of Cultural Entropy of all the countries? Do you remember?
Out of the 27, Venezuela.
Why do you think that is?
Look at what’s going on in Venezuela. It’s like riot time. It’s been going down over the past decade. We have data from Argentina at the beginning of this century on 2003, and that was very high. What happened there was Argentina went bankrupt in 2003, and that has something to do with this. The Cultural Entropy was very high there too. There’s a whole bunch of nations in Europe with Cultural Entropy in the 50%and that includes the UK. We mapped the values of UK in 2012 and we had 57% entropy. It was similar to USA, there are a lot of problems here. That showed up in the Brexit vote, because basically in the USA and the UK, you’ve got probably half the people who got left behind economically. They are finding their voice to say, “Enough is enough.”T he rich are just getting richer and the poor getting poorer. What happens is if you’ve got wealth and you invest it, the rate of return on your wealth is much higher than the increase in wages that has been going on, increase in salary.
If you didn’t have wealth and you just relied on your salaries, you’ll increase that 2% per year, whereas if you’ve got wealth and invested it, you increase it 10%. You don’t have to increase 10% every year for long to build a big gulf between the rich and the poor, and that’s exactly what’s happened in USA and in the United Kingdom. Successive governments have not paid attention to the needs of the less well-off. The situation with regard to health services in the USA is absolutely shocking when you compare it to what goes on in Europe. It’s like my there’s no compassion in the country for poor people, none whatsoever.
It is a big difference. When you get this data, do you get to any of the world leaders? You said not Obama but any of the others? What advice do you give them now that they know their data? Where did it go?
We’ve been working in the background doing this work significantly for the last ten years. We’ve been getting more and more recognition but we don’t have the recognition that you’re assuming we do. It’s coming very slowly. When I was in Brazil, we got a tremendous amount of publicity for the results of the assessment but most politicians aren’t very interested. Frankly, they’re more interested in their own self-esteem and landing their own mess. In Brazil, it’s terrible. The corruption is at the highest level of government. Frankly, I don’t think it’d be that much better in the more developed world. We’re going through a whole series of scandals now in the UK parliament, sex scandals, and then we had four years ago all the elected members fiddle their expenses. That was a huge scandal. These people who govern our countries are not highly enlightened people. If somebody comes along and says, “I can measure your consciousness.” They go, “What the hell is consciousness?”
It looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you. It sounds so fascinating that you’ve been able to get this much data. I can imagine why you have so many books to write if you’re doing this much work. Do you get any sleep?
I mentioned earlier, I live at one with my soul. Many people think they have a soul, but actually you don’t have a soul. You are a soul and I live from soul consciousness. When you say do you get any sleep, my soul constantly wakes me up every morning around 3:30 to 5:00 with information. I call it downloads. I was up at 3:30 this morning typing away because I was getting a download. Around6:00, I might go to bed for an hour and a half and then I’m good for the rest of the day as long as I have a nap in the afternoon. I have a very interesting life, I can tell you. I wish my soul would respect my sleep hours, but he doesn’t.
I can relate to that, the sleep part of it. I understand that what you’re doing is just fascinating. I think we see so many companies and organizations that have so many problems with engagement and I think everybody’s looking at ways to improve that, and I could see how what you’re doing it can reach people at so many different levels, individual, corporate, government, and whatever. It’s really fascinating. A lot of people would like to know how they could find out more about your assessments. You said you would share a website and all that. Can you do that?
Sure. First of all, I’ve got a lot of free materials and a lot of books. You can go to RichardBarrett.net. That will take you to the Values Centre, that’s the company website, so ValuesCentre.com. If you want to do the free personal assessment, it only takes five minutes to do and you’ll get the results four minutes later. Go to ValuesCentre.com/PVA. It’s in sixteen different languages so if you’re not a native English speaker you can do it in your own language. Those are the main three websites the audience will be interested in. On my website, RichardBarrett.net you’ll find podcasts, you’ll find videos, you’ll find books, you’ll find articles. There’s just a bunch of information that you can draw upon if you’re interested in these topics.
That’s so great of you to share all that, Richard. This has been fascinating. I’m sure everybody’s going I didn’t even know about some of this. I knew a lot that you were helping with all the values, but I didn’t realize the extent to your research globally. That’s amazing.
Can I just add one more thing? I just brought out a new book and it’s a relatively short book from my books, about 120 pages called Everything I Have Learned About Values. I actually gave it away for a month to coincide with Well Values Day. It’s going to press, so if you look around Amazon or whoever you buy your books from, you’ll be able to buy Everything I Learned About Values. I’m just getting the endorsements in right now. I’m knocked out by what terrific endorsements I got from that book because it’s a primer for people. If you are interested in values, read this book. It’s called Everything I Have Learned About Values.
Thank you so much for being on the show. This has been fascinating.
I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Leading With Integrity with Lee Benson
I am here with Lee Benson who’s one of the world’s most influential thinkers on helping organizations align employees to strategy and culture to achieve extraordinary results. He’s a highly regarded keynote speaker and he has powerful yet practical approach to leadership and culture that he created through his own personal business success; CNBC. He’s written numerous articles and it’s very interesting because he’s a keynote speaker who’s been with prominent business leaders like Jack Welch, Blake Irving. I want to find out more about that. It’s nice to have you here, Lee.
It’s great to be here with you, Diane. Thank you.
You’re here in Arizona?
I am. Our offices are in downtown Chandler. I live in Phoenix.
That’s great. I know Sharon well, actually.
She was great and very interesting. Her series of books, it’s just amazing what she’s accomplished. I’m curious of how you got into what you’ve got. You’re very focused on strategy, culture, and all that. That’s such a huge topic right now. Have you always focused on that? How did you get into this?
My journey started when I bought a business that basically lost all of its customers overnight. I was one of the employees working there. This was late ‘93. We were just a job shop working for aerospace companies providing electroplating to repair parts and went down to three employees, counting myself, my boss, and a closer to sell it. I’m done with this. I couldn’t find anybody to buy it, so I went back and said, “Let me assume the debt.” It was roughly in total about $600,000 and I said, “I want to go a different direction that you don’t believe in.” He agreed to that. Who wouldn’t? We quickly grew from three employees to around 500 when I sold it last year and we had 2,000 customers in 60 countries around the world. I traveled to most of those places, setting up the business early on. As the business evolved, we started out working incredibly hard. With everybody’s passion for getting the end results, sometimes they would forget to be respectful. Culture is important here. This is something we need to focus on. We came up with a definition of culture. Culture is what we agreed to do and how things get done. What we agreed to do as our mission statement and in a very clear, compelling way in our mission was we wanted to tell customers why they should do business with us and tell every employee at the same time why they have a job. This is the value we’re creating for our customers. If we don’t do it well, our jobs are in jeopardy.
How things get done distilled out into behaviors and leadership traits. In most organizations, when they put this stuff together, it falls into the camp of look good, feel good, sound good, and that things that can actually practically improve the organization. I said back then, and this was probably eighteen years ago now, it was always, “When we built this aerospace company, what are we trying to accomplish? Where the only reason we get work is because our customers see us as a better value alternative than the competition, then we need to be better than the competition.”What if we created a scenario where at any point in time, at least 50% of our employees are behaving, performing, and leading as good or better than the top 10% at our strongest, most admired competitors? The leadership team at the time just about fell out of their chair and said, “That would give us an amazing advantage.” I surveyed all 70 employees back then and I said, “This is what we’re trying to accomplish. From your view, what are the observable behaviors of the best performing folks you’ve ever worked with on their best days?”We had 68 of our employees participate in the survey. Huge list of behaviors came in with a lot of commonality that distilled down to the six behaviors that stood the test of time, and then our leadership traits distilled out of that.
Fast forward as we’re growing the business, we’ve made virtually every mistake that you could make. From a strategic standpoint, we would develop something, get a whopping 0.25% market share penetration, develop something else, and before we knew it we had 10,000 repairs for aircraft parts. I said, “Wait a minute, let’s focus on going deep on a few of those.” A long answer to your question, we evolved all the way through. The work ethics, the culture, the strategy, and the thing that was cool about that is it formed all of these practical things or ways of approaching the subjects that 80% of the employees understood, not just the top 5%. For the fifteen years prior to selling the company to Textron in early sixteen, we never had a year where we hit all of our business goals, and we never had a year where we didn’t beat the competition significantly and way outpace the market. It just worked, and that’s the evolution that develops these things.
I teach for Embry-Riddle and the aerospace industry is really interesting. I was looking at some of your background here and I mentioned Jack Welch. In 2011, Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE and voted CEO of the century, reviewed your management system and said that, “That’s the best business management system I’ve ever seen.” That’s quite an endorsement. When you’re talking about behaviors and leadership traits, did you say there were six behaviors?
Sure. Aerospace company, what distilled out of it prior to making this change, we had a set of values and the top value is integrity. I remember asking ten employees, “How are you applying integrity to make us measurably better?” I’ve got ten crazy answers. All I’ve done is created expensive wallpaper around the facility. What is the observable part of integrity? We just shifted over it and said, “High-performing employees throughout are able do what they say they will.” That’s the distilled out portion of integrity. Then the others, present and pursue permanent solutions as opposed to dwelling on problems, treat company resources as their own, are respectful, honest, and straightforward are fully engaged and participate within the team. These behaviors and the leadership traits, I could care less if an employee could recite them. What I cared about is that they knew how to live it to measurably improve the organization, which in turn improves their position within the organization, the value they created and the amount of money that it can make, for example.
How I got around this, rather than saying, “You need to memorize this stuff,” which I could care less about, I ask the employees once or twice a year for each one of our alignment tools, the vision, the mission, and the six behaviors, to come up with one example of how you’re living it in a way that measurably made the organization better. There would be some calculation of a return on investment. The ROI would be in only two categories. It’s very granular in terms of what you can do with it, but the two data categories that have to be in balance is customer experience improvements and profitability of improvements. I had close to 500 employees. It didn’t matter what their role was coming up with amazing examples. I remember one in 2012 where this woman that was masking parts that go into electroplating tanks came up with an idea to rack parts differently that saved, in this material, roughly $4,200 a year. Today it’s probably $10,000 a year in savings. From every part of the organization we have this type of stuff coming in and it just brought the alignment tools to life.
It’s fascinating that you found ways to give examples. Before you even mentioned what you said, I was going to ask you how you measured being fully engaged in some of these things, but you’re having them give you examples. How does that translate from industry to industry? Is it pretty similar of what need to know?
There are a couple of things around that. The single biggest deficit in the entire world is capable leadership. With capable leadership, the most value added thing that we can do is create better alignment within the organization. I’ve never met one organization where the senior leadership team says, “We’re all on the same page.” I’ve never seen it. I’ve been able to walk a number of organizations through the process I developed at Able and they for the first time have alignment. They say they haven’t had these conversations before. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for profit, non-profit, public, private, government, alignment helps any organization out there. It completely transforms them and the way we thought about each alignment tool because we’re getting people to change behaviors is there are three dimensions. The only reason we’re doing anything in the organization is to make a measurably better alignment tools need to pass the test. They’re within the three categories we would say application of it.
How often do you appropriately live this particular alignment tool? Second category would be your results. We’re only doing these alignment tools or asking you to live them to get better results. Are you hitting within a reasonable range of what we asked you to do, or are you significantly below it or you above it? That would affect the score. If they were not living the alignment tool to a point where it was negatively affecting the team, it would take away as well. The last category was the ability to communicate and influence. When you talk about it, are you just reciting it but you have no idea what it means? Can you stump speech around it? Are you influencing others to live it? The first time through, it took a little bit of time, but it just flew in terms of the ease of being able to assess employees. It was a level way of assessment across the entire organization. I was quite surprised in a very pleasant way how well that scoring criteria actually worked.
It’s interesting to me that you said they haven’t had these conversations before. Why do you think that they haven’t?
The alignment conversation is just a process. When you talk about getting everybody on the same page from a strategic standpoint, from a cultural standpoint, it’s just lack of a process and a set of rules to go through. For example, we worked with one large company probably four years ago. Our job was to come in and help them nail down their alignment tools, mission, vision, behaviors and leadership traits. They had been working on it for a couple of years. They had thousands of employees around the world. We surveyed all the employees the same way I did our employees back when I had 70. You got all this data back in, talked to the leadership team around the value they’re supposed to create for their customers around creating the mission and the vision, and in less than two hours, people Skyped in from all over the world. We had complete agreement from the entire leadership team on what the behaviors, the leadership traits, the mission, and the vision were going to be. The CEO looked at me and said, “This is incredible and I just can’t even believe it worked this well.”When he thought about it, he reached out to me later and said, “We build equipment and we have blueprints for building this equipment that we sell to our customers around the world. You give it to the team, you build it to plan, and out it comes.” We gave them a process for doing it that they’d never thought of before, and that’s why it works so well and all these alignment tools that stood the test of time. That’s more the issue, there’s not a concise process that they walked through to make that happen, on the culture side as well as the strategy side.
You said that it stood the test of time, but I’m curious how much time it takes for them to see impressive results? Is it something that happens quickly? Do you have feedback?
It’s something that happens quickly. We have lots of testimonials on our website where we’re getting better alignment, and so here’s why it works. The more aligned employees are, team members within the organization, only then can they have the better conversations we want them to have. Out of that, they distill better actions and it always yields better results. We had one example in a chemical distribution company where the CEO called me early 2014 and said, “Jack Welch tells me you have this great process for getting better alignment results. I’d like you to work with this part of the organization that’s the worst performing part of the organization.”I said, “Great.” We started the process late February in 2014.I got a call from the CEO in December and he said, “Congratulations. They went from the worst performing part of our entire organization of about 10,000 employees to by far the best performing part of the organization.” Even getting 20% more aligned causes significantly improved results.
I’m interested in what you think of Jack Welch’s removing 10% of the employees’ theories. Do you think that that’s a good practice?
You have a real challenge when you have 400,000 employees to get leaders not to protect poor performance. You know they develop relationships with employees and everything else. The kids play together, they go to church together and all that, and they just feel too bad letting them go. This is my view that if you force it in most organizations, you probably should have at least 16% turnover. Continue to upgrade the talent and help those that is just not the right fit for them find another organization to work in where it is. The thing that he liked about our system is it allowed you to see this stuff so you could move faster on making the change. When we first put this methodology in place at the aerospace company that I built, it was pretty incredible. I was approached by the engineering manager and he said, “I’ve got this individual I need to let go.” I asked my typical questions. “Did this person know what was expected and where he stood?” The engineering manager said, “Absolutely, this gentleman knows all of that stuff.”I said, “We’re going to roll out this more robust version of alignment to strategy and culture. Let’s try it on him for 60 days and see what happens.”
At the end of 60 days, he’d move him to a very solid middle performer and stayed there for a couple more years. The clearer we are around what’s expected and where an employee stands or a team member within the organization, what I’ve found is for every ten I used to have to let go, I could course correct early and save at least six of those into solid middle performers. The conditions that Jack Welch wanted to create for employees, they all knew where they stood. They knew what winning and losing looked like. They knew exactly what was expected, whatever outcomes in terms of goals that they were required to achieve. They were fully connected all the way up to the top goals or strategy of the organization, and that they fit the culture because how you make the numbers is incredibly important. I couldn’t agree more and I have tremendous respect for Jack as a person, what he accomplished in business as well as his ideology around this stuff. I’ve never been more aligned with another leader. He was attacked in a few ways in a completely misunderstood way. This 20/70/10 concept is probably closer to 20/65/15. Protecting poor performance is a huge leadership problem in most businesses. He was just forcing them to do it. That’s my view.
How did you get on his radar to begin with?
Eight or nine years ago, I attended a workshop that he was facilitating for a couple of days and they limited it to 100 people in the room, most of them managing over $1 billion in business. I was coming off $10 million a year. We quickly grew way past that after that point. The first exercise in the room on day one was somebody from each table state their mission and supporting values. I’m sitting at a table with a multi-billion dollar bank, a giant construction company and nobody knew their stuff. I said, “It’s in my bones. I’d be happy to go.” I said, “Here’s our mission. This is why we created it. Here are our behaviors to support it. We threw values out.” There was this long, uncomfortable silence and I thought, “Maybe I don’t belong in this room. I should leave.” Then Jack said, “That’s perfect. I wouldn’t change anything.” As he went around the room, I understood why he paused because everybody else just fell into camp of “look good, sound good, feel good.” It’s like they hired a values committee to put this together and they weren’t developed by the people running the business.
We go to lunch on day one. I sit down. I didn’t get selected to be at his table. I look over and he plumps down next to me and says, “I’ve done this a thousand times. Nobody’s ever gotten it right until you. How the hell did you do it?” We started our relationship then. He was very instrumental in helping me develop our methodologies and even the tool over time to be able to sustain and scale, executing on strategy and having an intentional culture, because that’s where it falls down. It’s easy to describe what you want and most senior leaders spend 80% plus of their brain power working on that and less than 20% on how they’re actually going to do it. Being able to sustain and scale and iterate faster and smarter than the competition around strategy as well as intentional culture is the piece that I spend a lot of time figuring out. I believe we’ve solved the problem.
It’s fascinating what you do. I’ve worked in companies where the CEO didn’t realize that their culture was problem. How do we get the ones that need to buy into this to discover that they need this?
Any organization where leadership is intensely working on improving, creating more value so they can profitably grow, we’re just looking at for profit organizations and they’re applying math, common sense and logic, they’re going to realize that they need it. These organizations are going to know that their single biggest challenge and biggest opportunity is alignment flat out. How you make the numbers is incredibly important. I would show a scatter graph and on the vertical axis we would measure everybody objectively on culture, on the horizontal on performance. We wanted everybody as close to the upper right hand corner as possible, but there was a pretty big spread from the upper right down to the lower left. Very few would ever be in the upper left-hand corner because you can’t score high on culture to get your alignment tools right if you’re low on performance. My role was anybody that was in the lower right hand corner, high performance but really low culture, generally they just appear one day because you missed them through the interview process and your filters. My goal personally was to get him out of the building in less than ten minutes. Then I would do a metaphorical public hanging of these people to say, “We don’t stand for this stuff.” I would further tell the employees, “If you can get them a job at our strongest competitors, I’ll give you a bonus. If you can get them a senior leadership position, I’ll give you a parking space and a company car. It’ll be so much easier to compete against what these people going over there and sucking the life force out of our competition.” We were serious about it.
All of your work interests me. I’ve worked with people who’ve worked with Jack. Steve Kerr was on my show who’s worked a lot with Jack. I’m looking at some of the other things you do. Your company, Execute to Win, is based here in Phoenix, but you also do other work. Didn’t I see you work with younger high school and college students to help them with the entrepreneurship and leadership? What do you do in that respect?
I do. The philanthropic efforts that are most important to me are about building the engine that runs the world. In a very win-win selfish way, the more competition there is, the more businesses there are, the quality goes up for the products and services that I and my family consume, the prices go down. There are more jobs, wages go up, all of it. I’m trying to work on the foundation and I’m interested in what youth entrepreneurs are doing. My goal is to get to all eighteen schools where this program is in place in Arizona over the next couple of months, and we’re teaching seniors. It’s an entire year program about entrepreneurship. All the way through, they developed into creating a business plan. There’s a competition, somebody wins. Particularly, I’ve got a great message for them because today government and educational institutions are telling everybody it’s not their fault they’re not making it. I was kicked out of the house in high school. I was given debt that wasn’t mine that I had to pay off. I started from what you would consider to be a disadvantaged position and nobody can make it from there, and yet I’m telling them, “You can start anywhere and go everywhere.” I’m helping those kids move in that direction. The single biggest piece of feedback I’m getting so far is that we actually believe we can do it now whereas before they didn’t. I’m working with Mort Fletcher ASU in this program called Fletcher Scholars and it’s all about the first child from each family to be able to go to college. Our goal is to have them graduate debt free because we helped with the scholarships as well. I’m also just starting to get involved with and I’m very interested in something called Year Up in the Phoenix area, fantastic programs. This is where I want to spend my time. It makes the biggest difference.
Gerald’s program’s amazing. Year Up’s a great thing. They’re focusing on soft skills. I don’t think we see enough of that without integral. We just need to get so much more into that. You agree?
I completely agree. I also think that Gerald is mining in the diamond mine where nobody’s mined before. We’re telling everybody if you don’t have a college degree, you’re not going to go anywhere. That’s absolutely not true. I see these young adults as being hungrier with better perspective and traits than most folks that I ever got out of the universities. There’s a reason why when people go into college and they leave. When they assess the critical thinking ability, there is no change. The whole purpose of education, at least in my view, is to set people up to be wildly successful in life personally and professionally. The goal is not the degree and we have to get away from that. We have to be communicating to people that you can start anywhere and go everywhere. That’s why I’m involved with these three different programs and a number of other things to move in that direction.
That’s awesome. I’m sure everybody’s going to want to know more about what you do. Can you share your website your company information? How people can reach you?
The website for Execute to Win is ETW.com. You can reach out to me through the website. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, I’m pretty easy to find there. I’m happy to answer all your questions.
This has been so fascinating. Thank you so much, Lee. I enjoyed talking to you. There’s a lot about this education I knew and I’ll have to talk off there because I’m fascinated with what you’re doing locally. Thank you for being here.
It was a real pleasure. Thank you.
What fascinating guests. Thank you so much to Richard and Lee. I learned a lot about values and culture. I have such great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any of the past episodes, please go to www.drdianehamilton.com/episodes and you can catch all of them there. I hope you come back for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.
About Richard Barrett
Richard Barrett, FRSA, is an author, speaker and internationally recognized thought leader on the evolution of human values in business and society. He is the Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and Founder of the Academy for the Advancement of Human Values. He is also a Fellow of the World Business Academy, and Former Values Coordinator at the World Bank. He is the creator of the internationally recognized Cultural Transformation Tools (CTT) which have been used to support more than 5,000 organizations in 60 different countries on their transformational journeys. To date, more than 5,000 change agents, consultants, and coaches have been trained by the Barrett Values Centre to use the Cultural Transformation Tools in over 50 countries.
About Lee Benson
Lee Benson is one of the world’s most influential thinkers on helping organizations align employees to strategy and culture to achieve extraordinary results and is a highly regarded keynote speaker. He has a powerful yet practical approach to leadership and culture that he created through his own personal business success and which has been adopted by thousands of managers and employees around the world. Lee has been extensively quoted and interviewed as an expert on the topic of leadership, execution and culture in accredited MBA courses, featured guest on CNBC, written numerous articles, and has been a keynote speaker with prominent business leaders like Jack Welch and Blake Irving. His innovative, common sense approach has helped thousands of employees in hundreds of public, private and government organizations drive, scale and sustain an intentional culture and consistently execute on strategy.
- Richard Barrett
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- Everything I Have Learned About Values
- Lee Benson
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